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Statewide teacher layoffs: It’s 20,000

By: Nathan Donato-Weinstein
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The number of teachers in California who have been issued notices of potential layoffs has hit 20,000, the state's education chief said Friday. School districts are required by law to notify teachers and other certificated staff members that they could be laid off by March 15. The recent layoffs “ including dozens in Placer County districts “ have been spurred by $4.8 billion in cuts to education contained in Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's January proposed state budget. In a statement, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell blamed the layoff notices on a priorities problem and decried the governor's proposed budget for putting student performance in grave jeopardy. The governor's budget fails to invest in our future, O'Connell said in the statement. We should be encouraging the best and brightest to join the teaching ranks. We know that effective teachers are the number one element in student success. Sadly, the flood of pink slips being handed out only discourages people from entering the teacher profession. In recent weeks, local school boards have approved reductions in force for the Eureka, Dry Creek, and Lincoln school districts, as they seek to close massive budget holes. The Eureka Union School District issued intent to layoff notices for about 12 full-time positions, officials said. Dry Creek Joint Elementary School District trustees recently approved about 35 full-time positions. And Lincoln Unified School District did the same for 20.7 full-time positions. Districts are really in a hard place right now, having to decide whether or not with the proposed budget they're going to make deep cuts “ in essence, layoff notices “ or they're not going to make those cuts and risk falling under county or state oversight, said Placer County Superintendent Gayle Garbolino-Mojica. It's a board decision on which of these parade of horribles is the lesser of two evils. The Roseville Joint Union High School District and Roseville City School District, which are both experiencing modest enrollment growth - which helps matters - have not had to issue layoff notices in response to the budget, officials for both districts said. Layoff notices could be rescinded if the budget picture brightens. The governor's first proposed state budget is widely considered to provide the most austere spending plan of the budget-making season, but school districts must base their financial projections on the most recent proposal. Garbolino-Mojica said she's hopeful a report by the Legislature's independent analyst Elizabeth Hill, which identified about $2.5 billion in funding for education, would be adopted in future revisions. But we all know it's going to be a tough year in California, she said. Reach Nathan Donato-Weinstein at nathand@goldcountrymedia.com